AbbVie will partner with Lupin to develop and commercialize Lupin’s Mucosa-Associated Lymphoid Tissue Lymphoma Translocation Protein 1 (MALT1) inhibitors as novel treatments for various blood cancers, through a collaboration that the Indian biopharma said could generate for it close to $1 billion.

AbbVie has licensed exclusive global rights to Lupin’s MALT1 inhibitor program, based on the MALT1 protein involved in T-cell and B-cell lymphocyte activation.

AbbVie agreed to pay Lupin $30 million upfront for the exclusive license, and up to $947 million tied to achieving regulatory, development, and commercial milestones. AbbVie also agreed to pay Lupin a double-digit royalty on sales of treatments generated through the MALT1 inhibitor program, with Lupin retaining commercial rights to the program in India.

“Lupin’s MALT1 program is exploring a new and innovative approach in difficult-to-treat cancers,” Tom Hudson, M.D., AbbVie’s VP, discovery, said in a statement. Dr. Hudson was among researchers involved in the Human Genome Project, joining the pioneering initiative as a postdoc in 1990 at MIT.

“AbbVie is committed to pursuing advanced treatment options for patients and we look forward to partnering our expertise in hematological oncology with Lupin’s discovery program to offer new hope to patients,” Dr. Hudson added.

Added Nilesh Gupta, managing director, Lupin, “We are very pleased to partner with AbbVie who share a commitment to deliver high-quality medicines in areas that lack approved treatment and have a dire medical need. Their proven success in rapidly commercializing new targeted oncology treatments made them our partner of choice for this program.”

The collaboration fits with AbbVie’s inclusion of oncology among its five therapeutic areas of focus. On its website, the biopharma giant describes its approach to oncology as “investing in new pathways, technologies, and approaches to tackle the most widespread and debilitating cancers.”

Oncology is one of three therapeutic areas of focus for Lupin’s Novel Drug Discovery and Development (NDDD) program; the other two are immunology and metabolic disorders. According to Lupin, NDDD’s sole clinical program in oncology has completed a Phase I study in Europe in terminally-ill patients with lung cancer, melanoma, and colon cancer—and has begun a Phase II study in India assessing the treatment candidate’s efficacy in treating a refractory type of lung cancer which has RAS mutations for which no treatment exists worldwide.

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